The economy in the province of Brabant is growing faster than elsewhere in the Netherlands. Brabant accounts for more than half of all Dutch patent applications and also has the highest festival density in the country. In addition, Eindhoven is now the fifth largest city of the Netherlands. You can find more facts and figures about Brabant on this page.
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The southern province of North Brabant covers an area of 5,081 km², making it the second largest province in the Netherlands after Gelderland. Approximately 2.5 million people live in 64 municipalities in Brabant. Brabant has many neighbours: South Holland and Gelderland to the north, Zeeland and Limburg in the west and east respectively, and Belgium to the south. Germany is also close by.
Most of the inhabitants of Brabant live in the cities. The four largest are: Eindhoven and Tilburg (both with more than 200,000 inhabitants), Breda (more than 180,000 inhabitants) and 's-Hertogenbosch (a good 150,000 inhabitants). Urban planners and city architects refer to the cities of Bergen op Zoom, Roosendaal, Breda, Tilburg, Eindhoven, Helmond, ’s-Hertogenbosch and Oss as the ‘Brabantse Stedenrij’ - the Brabant City Belt - because they function as a single large urban area. This area also includes smaller towns such as Boxtel, Etten-Leur, Uden, Veghel and Waalwijk.
’s-Hertogenbosch, commonly known as Den Bosch, is the provincial capital. Jheronimus Bosch, a famous painter, was born there and it is the city of the imposing Sint Jan Cathedral and the ‘Bossche Bol’ - a large, chocolate-glazed cream puff. Like Breda, it is a city with a rich history. Breda's hospitable inner-city area was voted the best city centre in the major cities category in 2017.
When ranked by the number of inhabitants, Eindhoven is the fifth largest city of the Netherlands. The city has grown rapidly thanks to large corporations such as Philips and DAF and is now the heart of a world-class technology region: Brainport Eindhoven. Companies, local government, education and knowledge institutes all collaborate here to develop tomorrow’s products. Brainport was good for 410,000 jobs in 2017 and accounted for more than one fifth of the Netherlands’ total exports of machines and transport equipment, which are the region's main export products. In 2015, businesses invested more than €1.7 billion in Research & Development in the Brainport area. Philips is still one of the largest employers here and applies for more patents than any other company in the Netherlands.
Industry in Brabant does not just thrive in Eindhoven and the surrounding area. Brabant is the most highly industrialised province in the Netherlands and responsible for 20% of the nation's industrial production. Northeast Brabant - with Oss, Uden and Veghel – is one of the most important industrial areas in the country. Traditional industries, such as the leather and shoe industry in Waalwijk, have succeeded in reinventing themselves. The well-known names on Waalwijk's Langstraat now mainly focus on innovation, marketing and logistics in the shoe and leather sector.
Animal husbandry, farming and horticulture in the rural areas of Brabant still account for a significant share of the economic activity in the province. These sectors are also innovating across a broad front. Via the AgriFood innovation programme, for example, which is based on close collaboration with the high-tech sector.
The Design Academy Eindhoven and the Dutch Design Week (DDW) make Brabant the leading design province in the Netherlands. World-famous designers such as Piet Hein Eek and Maarten Baas studied here. Piet Hein Eek chose Strijp-R in Eindhoven as his home base in 2010 and set up a manufacturing facility, design studio and restaurant there. In 2017, the DDW attracted 335,000 (international) visitors - a record - and 2,600 designers participated.
In recent years, Brabant has succeeded in attracting increasing numbers of domestic and foreign visitors. They often come to Brabant to shop (particularly in Breda and Eindhoven), enjoy a delicious meal, or pay a visit to one of the province’s 124 museums. Well-known museums such as the Noordbrabants Museum in ’s-Hertogenbosch, the Van Abbemuseum in Eindhoven and Museum De Pont in Tilburg. In 2016, the Noordbrabants Museum succeeded in attracting 5,710 visitors a day and a total of 421,700 visitors with its ‘Jheronimus Bosch - Visions of a genius’ exhibition. In that year, it was one of the best visited exhibitions in the world. All kinds of activities were organised to commemorate the 500th anniversary of the death of the city’s most famous historical resident.
In 2015, another famous inhabitant of Brabant was in the limelight. That year marked the 125th anniversary of the death of Vincent van Gogh. The house where he was born in Zundert, and other places in Brabant where you can still see traces left behind by this famous painter, remain as popular as ever.
Brabant also has much to offer when it comes to forms of light amusement. The Efteling in Kaatsheuvel is the largest theme park in the Netherlands and, with nearly 4.7 million visitors in 2016, one of the most popular parks in Europe. Safari Park Beekse Bergen in Hilvarenbeek was voted the Netherlands’ best wildlife park in 2017.
Carnival mainly attracts people from North Holland, Gelderland and Utrecht to the province. Oeteldonk ('s-Hertogenbosch) attracts the largest number of Carnival revellers, even more than Maastricht in southern Limburg. Other major crowd-pullers include the funfair in Tilburg (the largest in the Netherlands, followed closely by the funfair in Uden), the GLOW light art festival in Eindhoven and the flower parade in Zundert, which is the largest dahlia parade in the world.
Those who seek the serenity of nature are also well catered for in Brabant. The province has many beautiful nature areas, including four national parks. With a network of 9,875 kilometres of hiking paths, Brabant is the third largest hiking province in the country. The historic routes along the Zuiderwaterlinie defence line and fortified towns such as Heusden and Willemstad are popular destinations for hikers.
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